Sock Knitting 101: Yarn

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Do you need to have sock yarn to make socks with? Can you only make socks with sock yarn?

If you have knit for any length of time then you have probably heard these two questions many times in a variety of different ways. Of course, like most things in knitting, the answer to both of these questions is no. You don’t have to make socks out of “sock yarn” and you can make other things than just socks with “sock yarn”.

I have a love/hate relationship with the term “sock yarn” because it is just a term that has grown to refer to a fingering weight wool yarn that often has nylon added to it for strength. Of course, this is not the only type of sock yarn available because the types range from 100% wool to a luxurious yack/nylon blend. In fact, sock yarn does not even have to refer to a fingering weight yarn. There are some worsted weight sock yarns on the market, they just aren’t as popular because they make thicker socks than fingering weight yarn does.

Even though we have lots of options to chose from, there is a lot of confusion over what sort of yarn to use when making socks. So, I’m going to go over the top five sock yarn questions that I’ve been seeing floating around Ravelry for the last couple of years.

Do you have to make socks out of fingering weight yarn?

Of course not! You can make socks out of everything from lace weight yarn to super bulky yarn. The trouble is the thicker the yarn you make socks out of, the thicker the socks will end up being. So, while you can make socks out of bulky yarn, you might not want to unless you want to make socks that are more like slippers than actual socks. Similarly, you can make socks out of lace weight, but you would have to knit it with such small needles and with a huge amount of stitches to make sure that they fit that you might not want to because it would be so time consuming.

All sock yarn has wool and I don’t wear wool. Is there non-wool sock yarn out there?

Yes, there are some non-wool sock yarns out there. You can make socks out of cotton or linen or any other type of yarn out there. I have found that the socks made out of material without any wool at are have less bounce back and can stretch out and loose shape more easily. Even a sock yarn with a tiny bit of wool in it will have much more spring to it than a 100% cotton sock yarn.

Can you make socks out of 100% wool? Do you have to have nylon in sock yarn to make socks out of it?

Yes, you can make socks out of 100% wool. To make them stronger, you need to knit them at a tighter gauge than normal so they won’t wear out as quickly. After all, for many years in human history there weren’t any sock yarn blends with wool and nylon.

I found a sock yarn that I love and I don’t want to make socks out of it. Can I make something else out of it?

Of course you can make something else out of it. You don’t have to make socks out of sock yarn. Again, sock yarn is just a wool/nylon fingering weight yarn, so you can make anything from shawls to hats out of it if you prefer. There are lots of gorgeous sock yarns out there that you can use to make anything out of. Remember, there is no such thing as a knitting police and you can do anything you want to do.

Does sock yarn count as stash?

Technically it takes up space, so it should count as stash. But, there is a running joke around knitters that sock yarn already has a project linked to it, so it doesn’t count as stash because you already have a plan for it. I don’t know how that joke got started. It might have been the Yarn Harlot. It might have been someone else, but apparently this causes a lot of anxiety for newer knitters for some reason. It’s a joke. If you want your sock yarn to count as part of your stash, then count it. If not, then don’t. Just don’t prioritize buying yarn over taking care of yourself or taking care of your other adult responsibilities.

Temptation & Surprise Yarn

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Every time I get home from a wool festival I promise myself that I won’t start anything new with any of my brand new goodies until I finish at least one thing that I was working on. Apparently, I don’t stand up well against the temptation of cashmere/silk/merino.

The first thing I did was to locate my Golding spindle and start spinning this little bunch of loveliness. I am hoping to maximize the yardage I get out of this little sample by spinning as fine as I can possibly get it and then two ply it for a (hopefully) lace weight yarn. It has been about a year (maybe two) since I even touched any of my drop spindles, so it is surprising how quickly I picked it back up again. It was like I never stopped spinning on my spindles. The only difference is that I’m a bit better at drafting since I’ve done so much spinning on my wheel.

There was another surprise for me when I got home. I went to pick up my fiance at work and he thrust a box into my hands with a quick “here, I forgot to give you this”. Normally, I remember when I order anything and I normally have it shipped to our apartment. And my fiance also has a bit more of a dramatic flair when he gets me surprise gifts, so I was really confused.

It turns out that my Grandpa was making fishing lures with my brother last week and claimed to have leftover yarn from the lures. So, he sent it up to me since he knows I knit and do all sorts of things with yarn.

I still think he just wanted an excuse to send me some yarn. It is lovely and soft chunky yarn! It is perfect because it is a weight I don’t normally buy myself and I have been wanting to make big, chunky knits. Plus, the yarn is from Bernat and I do enjoy using their yarns to make things. These big skeins are a treat because they are soft right out of the skein even though they are still 100% acrylic. Even though I love wool, I can still enjoy a nice solidly made acrylic yarn.

The only trouble is deciding what I want to make with it. I have been wanting to make a cowl, but how long? Then there is the entrelac, brioche, or chunky stranded color work question. Sometimes, knitters have far too many choices.

Convention Season: Zenkaikon 2017 & Maryland Sheep & Wool 2017

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I have had a very busy two weeks with very little downtime to feel motivated to write. This feeling of lazy, wistful energy is what is associated with “con crash” and it sucks. I was hoping to avoid it this year, but it snuck up on me anyway. It is only my second true convention season, so I’ll learn how to deal with it better because I have too much fun at these events not to go to them.

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Sock Knitting 101: Needles

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20151019_100714The only reason I wanted to learn how to knit was to make socks, but when it came down to actually trying to make a sock I was immediately turned away by the thought of knitting with teeny tiny double pointed needles. They were so small! Not to mention that they had points at both ends so your yarn could completely slip off the needles if you weren’t paying attention. There was no way I was good enough to do that.

Luckily, when I first started to learn to knit socks Cat Borhdi had already popularized the two circular technique for sock knitting. Then Sarah Hauschka figured out how to knit small circumferences on one long circular needle and called it “The Magic Loop” which was popularized in the book that Bev Galeskas wrote explaining it. Now there are teeny-tiny circular needles made for small circumference knitting. There are even books out there that walk you through the process of knitting socks on straight needles, so you don’t even have to worry about knitting in the round if you really hate it that much. Not to mention sock looms if you prefer knitting with a loom instead of with knitting needles.

So, what sort of needles do you need to learn how to knit socks on? Any kind of needles you feel most comfortable with.

That being said, I’m going to walk you through the pros and cons of each technique so you can know what to expect from them.

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Sock Knitting 101: An Introduction

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Within the last few months, there has been a serious uptick on the amount of sock knitting questions on Ravelry from beginning sock knitters. These questions have ranged anywhere from what size needles to use to what the heck does ease even mean?! So, I decided to break down sock knitting from some sort of mystical knitting accomplishment to something that even a four year old could learn. It really is that easy once you get the hang of it.

I can practically hear you scoff from across the Internet. Kids can’t knit socks, especially not a wild four year old! They are too hard, too complicated for kids to make. The heels! The purling! The fitting! The needles! Much too hard. Blogger, are you on something?

I promise you that knitting socks is not as hard as everyone makes it sound and it does make for a nice portable project that you can just throw in your bag and go without even needing a copy of the pattern to follow directions with. The purpose of the Sock Knitting 101 posts will be to teach you the basics of sock knitting and how to knit top down socks without a pattern. Since these posts will be more involved, they will be updated weekly on Fridays.

I hope these posts will inspire you to try making a pair of socks. Even if sock knitting turns out not to be your thing, I think it is great to try out something new just so you can have the challenge of trying out a new skill.

One Trick Pony

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The only bad thing about being a semi-monogamous¬† knitting blogger is that I always feel a bit bad when I’m not posting something new and shiny for each post. I feel like I am letting my readers down because even if I find my knitting exciting, I feel like showing you the same thing every time isn’t really that exciting to read about.

Lintilla in progress in natural light. I think this is my favorite section so far.

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After all, there is only so many times I can gush over how well Chroma Twist in Dear Diary is knitting up. I am twenty ruffles into the shawl now and the grey just keeps getting darker and darker. It is knitting up really well and even though Chroma Twist looked more blended in the skein, you can tell that the color differences are there throughout the whole skein. So it doesn’t look like just a grey shawl with two pink stripes in it. I am looking forward to the last part of the shawl because I’m going to be ending with the pink, which makes my symmetrical loving brain very happy even though the shape of the shawl is asymmetrical.

Since I am going to a convention this weekend, I don’t think I’ll have much time to knit on this during the trip. I will be casting on a brand new pair of socks for my fiance to take with me since I won’t need a pattern for those. The trouble is do I wind up one of my variegated Nerd Girl Yarn hanks or do I bring more stripes with Knit Picks Felici?

Ruffly Ruffles

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I’ve been making a very concentrated effort at knitting my Lintilla this weekend. There are two weeks before Maryland Sheep & Wool and I’ve been toying with the idea of having my Lintilla done in time to wear it. The weather seems to be doing the warm/cold every other day nonsense this spring, so there is a 50/50 chance that it will be too warm to wear it or just the right temperature to wear it.

Working toward the last few increase ruffles on my Lintilla shawl.

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I am enjoying how the Chroma Twist is knitting up. I didn’t think the ball would have that much of a variation between depth of colors since my ball didn’t have any of the white plies match up, but there is a drastic difference when it is knit up. Especially now that I’ve hit the dark grey part. There is no question that this is Dear Diary. It is just more marled than the straight Chroma Fingering would be and I think that makes it really nice to look at. It looks different both close up and farther away.

I am also glad that my ruffles are looking ruffly. I was worried at the beginning that the ruffles weren’t really ruffling well. At first, I was willing to blame that on the gauge making it drape too much, but the original was knit at a looser gauge too so I couldn’t really blame it on that. Luckily, it just turned out that ruffles ruffle better with more ruffles knit. The last time I measured my skein I was sitting around 52 grams, so I am nearly at the decreasing point. I can probably get two to four more ruffles in the increasing section.

Matchy-Matchy Unicorn

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I am so glad we have written down on paper patterns available to us. I just picked my Lintilla back up and I forgot to do one increase at the end of the last ruffle I was doing two times. At least it doesn’t look too obvious. It just makes the end of the eighth ruffle a little less rounded than the others. With the help of the pattern, I was able to refresh my memory for the other ruffles though.

Lintilla Shawl in progress. I might have to make Miku one in this scale just because it looks so cozy.

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I have discovered that Miku makes a wonderful yarn holder to keep my yarn cakes up and out of the way. She also makes a convenient place to store my WIP while making it appear fashionable so I don’t have to put the yarn and project in and out of my knitting bag all of the time. I am sure the project is going to be far too big for her very quickly, but she looks so cute in it right now that I couldn’t help myself!

I am working on the tenth ruffle right now and I have promised myself that I wouldn’t weigh my yarn ball until I hit the fifteenth ruffle. I have no idea how many increase ruffles I am going to get, but I’ll be able to get a gauge measurement for you guys soon just in case anyone likes my outcome and wants to mimic it.

My morning so far: matchy-match Unicorn frappe and a Pomeranian that wants a treat.

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The only other news that happened since Wednesday is that I did give in to getting and trying the Starbuck’s Unicorn Frappe. By sheer coincidence, I managed to match it and get a sugar rush from it at the same time! I coudn’t finish it at the end because it got super sour. I don’t know what I did to make it that way (my fiance said his wasn’t super sour, but I did give mine a stir halfway through) but other than that, it was pretty good. I will never ever be tempted to get it again. I would be more likely to get something off of the Secret Menu or get my all time favorite drink: a simple Matcha Latte.

Introducing the Virtual Idol Hatsune Miku!

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Nobody in this house blinks their eyes when a large box enters anymore. Normally, these boxes are full of yarn or fiber, but boxes full of softly squishy wool don’t proclaim FRAGILE YOU FOOL in big block letters. This times, it is something much bigger than a box of wool anyway, so if it was full of yarn my fiance might have staged an intervention at that point. Or at least asked me why I didn’t talk to him before ordering a big box of yarn right before Maryland Sheep and Wool.

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Things Show Up in “Logical” Places

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Moving from one place to another always has a toll in missing and misplaced supplies. I spent months looking for one pair of US 5 circular needles only to finally find them (along with my missing nostepinne) in the front pouch of my wheel bag. In hindsight, this makes perfect sense because I had already packed all of my other knitting supplies and I was spinning on the wheel right before the move. It was only logical to put both the nostepinne and the circular needles I had just finished Hitchhiker on in there. Good thing I didn’t break down and buy another set of needle tips for that size yet.

Instead of winding up another hank of yarn and casting on another pair of socks immediately, I decided to take those missing needles and cast on a new project. I don’t have the willpower to rip out and re-knit my Hitchhiker yet, so I decided to go with another Martina Behm shawl: Lintilla.

Lintilla is a pretty little asymmetrical shawl with ruffles on it. Simple, cute, easy, right? Well, all of those ruffles are done with short rows. Regular old fashioned wrap-and-turn-and-pick-up-the-wraps short rows. The type of short row that I always got holes with no matter what I did. It turns out, I was picking up the wrap backwards and making it harder for myself. As with most things with knitting, mastering a skill is mostly practice. By the time I get done with this shawl, I’ll be a short row master. Who knows? Maybe I’ll actually try a short row heel again.